Opioid Epidemic Update


As reviewed in our post Raising Awareness of the Opioid Crisis in Construction (September 2018), the opioid epidemic is a serious issue in the U.S., and the construction industry seems to be hit the hardest.  Since the last post, more stories have been coming across our news feed related to opioid abuse, and there is a great need for addressing it through education and awareness.

The unfortunate reality is that opioids killed more than 49,000 people in the United States in 2017, and the occurrences have been on the rise for several years. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 68% of the more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid, and on average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.  Due to the nature of construction being high risk for injuries, the industry is particularly vulnerable to the overuse and abuse of opioids.

Earlier this week, CNN posted an article that highlighted the states that have been most impacted by the opioid crisis. More specifically, the article featured a study that was published last Friday in the journal JAMA Network open.  In the study it was noted that the mortality rate from synthetic opioids in 28 states more than doubled every two years from 1999 to 2016. The District of Columbia saw the greatest increase in its opioid mortality rate, which more than tripled every year since 2013.

Across the nation and through 2016, opioids were responsible for decreasing the life expectancy of Americans by 0.36 years (source: JAMA).  To put it in perspective, that’s a higher loss of life than caused by guns or motor vehicle accidents.

The report wasn’t all bad though… While New Hampshire and West Virginia saw the most dramatic drops in life expectancy (more than one year) due to opioid deaths, states including Montana and Oregon have experienced a decline in opioid deaths from 1999 to 2016.

The report recognized a development and change in the type of opioids that are being used, and from the 1990s-2010, opioids were most visible in the form of prescription painkillers; since 2010, even more severe opioids have fueled the epidemic in the form of heroin and synthetic opioids.

As a construction professional, it is important to be proactive when it comes to the health and well-being of your workers.  As reviewed in our previous post, you can address the issue through education and by providing support to those who are in need.  To reiterate, you can take any or all of the following steps to keep your crews safe:

1 – Conduct Drug Testing. Tests should be expanded to cover opioids.

2 – Have a written policy to prevent drug use and abuse in the workplace.

3 – Be aware and look for the signs; you can refer to this list of signs of opioid abuse as listed by Addiction Center.

4 – Educate employees and provide resources.

5 – Review Your Healthcare and Benefits and see where you can improve options for pain treatment.

To read more about what you can do in your workplace to educate and support your team when it comes to opioid abuse, check out Raising Awareness of the Opioid Crisis in Construction.  To improve your workplace safety and related training, contact Brauner Safety Services.

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